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Sebastian: Forerunners22 Jun 2004 18:12
For years and years `Black Queen` has been considered `Bo Rhap`s "mother". Other people claim that it`s a combination of Beach Boys and Beatles`s A Day In The Life. In fact at that stage Freddie`s main influence wasn`t other than himself, and the 20-25 songs he wrote before Bohemian Rhapsody all contributed to the practice so he could write it as he did.

However, I personally always considered that the direct mother of Bo Rhap is In The Lap Of The Gods. So I wrote an article about it. Enjoy it (contributions/critics/corrections welcome, of course):

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IN THE LAP OF THE GODS & BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
 

The similitude between those two songs is amazingly and surprisingly big; In The Lap Of The Gods is in many ways the last direct pre-runner to Bo Rhap , a title that`s usually lost for The March Of The Black Queen`s behalf. Nevertheless, the latter song is more connected lyrically with both ("I`ll be what you make me I`ll do what you like" - "I live my life for you... anything you ask I do", "everything you do bears a will and a why and a wherefore" - "now I`ve gone and thrown it all away ... gotta leave you all behind and face the truth"). Anyway, interesting connections between Lap and Bo Rhap are:

 Song Structure
 


Freddie kind of spent the entire 1969-1975 era trying to do a piece like Bohemian Rhapsody, and of course all the songs he wrote in that period (about twenty) were part of the practice for that. However, the formula used for the form was taken directly from In The Lap Of The Gods:


- The intro is a section that never re-appears later in the song (also check Freddie`s songs Flick Of The Wrist, Death On Two Legs, Great King Rat, How Can I Go On, It`s A Beautiful Day, It`s A Hard Life, Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon, Love Of My Life, My Fairy King, Seaside Rendezvous, Somebody To Love, The March Of The Black Queen, You Take My Breath Away).

- After the intro there`s a ballad section which consists of Verse-Bridge-Verse-Bridge. In both songs verses are done exactly the same way (although with different arrangement and lyrics, but the framework is the same), and the bridge section is different: the first time its ending prepares the beginning of the next verse (Fred did it in a much more developed way in Bo Rhap, that`s the point where it can be said that he wrote that one later), the second time it overlaps a new section (in the case of Lap the next section is a kind of chorus, in the case of Bo Rhap it`s a solo, note that in both cases it`s a climatic section).

- The piece becomes acyclic after that "ballad" (alternating verse and bridge) section. Freddie also practiced it (with variations) in Ogre Battle, Great King Rat, Princes Of The Universe and The Hitman. Under Pressure, which is also essentially written by Mercury, also follows a similar cyclic/acyclic pattern, although that one is about 70% cyclic, the others are the other way around.

 Harmony
 


In this particular matter we find again common trademarks Freddie applied in both tracks, and in several others. In general terms In The Lap Of The Gods is much simpler than Bohemian Rhapsody, in the way that it uses less chords, and it doesn`t have so many modulations. In more concrete cases we find that:

- At 1:50 there`s a descending bass line in Lap. We find exactly that same part quoted in Bohemian Rhapsody during the fanfares (after "oh yeah oh yeah"). Freddie used to re-work older ideas all the time, and this is one specific case in which he did it the same way.

- In The Lap Of The Gods`s intro starts with an ascending chord progression. That`s a teaser for what it can be found in Bo Rhap at the end of the heavy section.

- The beginning of the verse in Lap is over the chord change between natural and diminished (two-way: natural, dim, natural). Freddie included the same pattern at the beginning of Bohemian Rhapsody`s operatic bit, and also near the very end (in shortened form).

- Before the second verse there`s a measure in the dominant chord. It "sets the table" for a return in the verse key. In Bo Rhap Freddie again worked on that, but of course evolved: the sustained chord is this time the subdominant`s parallel and then it changes again to a little piano spacer that gives rise to the next verse. So he did it in a more original and complex way later, but of course he wouldn`t have been able to do it without the training he had before

- During In The Lap Of The Gods coda, Freddie basically uses the chord change between Bb and F (very usual for him, specially one step below: Ab and Eb). The last part of Bo rhap`s outro quotes that again. Nice cross-reference.

 By The Way
 


BBC Radio One`s host Tom Browne also pointed out the similarty between those two tracks. That was during a two hour special about the band in December 24th 1977, they were all there and after listening to In The Lap Of The Gods (aired during the interview before a commercial break), he said "Freddie, was this a sort of pre runner to Bohemian Rhapsody? It has that sort of operatic feel to it". Freddie`s answer was: "I suppose it could be progressed that way. I was beginning to learn a lot on Sheer Heart Attack, we were doing a lot of things which was to come on future albums. Songs like that, yes, I suppose. Working out the harmonies and song structure did help on say something like Bo Rhap". So there you go, the same composer admitted there is a strong connection.

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Next one (hopefully): Killer Queen & The Miracle (also pointed out by the song`s creator)
1.PD 22 Jun 2004 19:15

My notes:

The intro of "Somebody To Love" does re-appear in a variant form (shades of Mustapha: you don't recognise it for first).

The form of ITLOTGods: 

Intro | Verse | Verse | Chorus | Outro |

The Chorus of ITLOTGods reminds me of "Funny How Love Is": slow harmonic rhythm and variant phrases.

A nice forerunner pair (in terms of style) is "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" and "My Melancholy Blues". Take the end of the slow-down section of "Leroy Brown" and try to continue it with "so come and get me..."

"Dragon Attack" was and "after-runner" of "We Will Rock You" in terms of pentatonic melodies.

2.Sebastian 23 Jun 2004 16:14
Thanks for the comments

Yes the melody of Dragon Attack verse is just a shortened form of the one in We will Rock You (compare "take me to the room where ..." to "buddy you`re a boy...")

Leroy Brown seems to be a strong influence for much of Fred`s future work, and contemporary too (.e.g Killer Queen). I agree with him that Sheer Heart Attack was the base for his songwriting in later years. Queen II "only" developed one part of it, Sheer Heart set the germ for all.
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